How to Earn a Cat’s Trust

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

You feel you lost your cat’s trust, or maybe you adopted a cat that has general fear and distrust of all people in general. If you want to fix this, you will have to be patient and understanding. Your cat is wild at heart and instinctively is not a pack animal. They are not like dogs who will forgive you over and over for the same action. They harbor fear and resentment well. Here are some simple ways to earn back your cat’s trust, or earn it for the first time!

How a Cat’s Trust Works

Cats can have their trust broken enough to not be able to trust anyone. This tends to happen after years of abuse but it can only take one scary action by you to make your cat rethink your bond. Something as simple as using a leash the wrong way on your cat can change them. Even if you accidentally drop an object near them, it can trigger fear. While most adult cats will place blame and fear on the object, some will put that on you. Kittens tend to do this more than adults, especially if a bond has not been established. The truth is, you don’t need to abuse your cat on purpose to have them lose your trust. When you think of us humans, all’s it takes is one wrong action by another human and we are done. Cats are not so different after all.

Food Is Common Ground

Cats love food, not only when they are hungry either! They will eat at any time of the day and enjoy treats as well. What you want to do is place their food or treats close by where you will spend most of your time in the home. If you work at home in an office room, put it in there. Don’t acknowledge them when they are eating. Carry on doing what you do! They may stop eating or even run if you move to quickly so be careful.

Once they are comfortable eating and you are able to move around freely without them running or acting scared, place treats close by to you. This may take a number of times but eventually, the cat will come to you and eat the treats. Again, don’t startle it or move suddenly. Don’t even pet it. Allow it to do its own thing.

Bond Like a Tree

If you notice the cat walking around looking at you, maybe coming close then running, try being a tree. You can sit, stand, or lay down, but don’t move. Allow the cat to come to you, smell you, breathe you in and see you will not harm them. If you lay down, close your eyes and allow them to move freely around you. They will see your eyes are closed and may even walk on you to get a closer look!

Avoid Scary Objects

Most cats do not like vacuums, large objects, cars, long thick sticks, things that make a loud noise, or water. Knowing this, do not vacuum in the same room as your cat. If they are in the bedroom, close the door, then clean. This will give them a sense of security. Be mindful when using brooms and mops as well. They may be quiet but to a scared cat, they are intimidating. Loud noises are a given! They have super-sensitive hearing so always keep this in mind. Also, avoid raising your voice when your kitty is nearby. Toys may come into play when you know your interaction with them aren’t frightening.

Let Them Do the Work

You may want to pick your cat up, cuddle it, pet it and so on but if the cat lacks trust with you, this will cause a problem. What you want to do is be patient. Allow the cat to come close to you and put your hand out. If they come into your hand for a pet, then go for it. They may only sniff your hand and walk away. That is fine! Keep at it. Cats who have broken trust with a human often see hands as a threat so this will take some time. Some cats will take right away, others won’t.

Don’t Back Them into Tight Places

Ever hear the phrase “never corner a cat”? That is because they become heated and defensive. They will bite, hiss, scratch, anything they can to get out of the corner and to a safer place. The only time they like to have walls behind them is while they are hunting. When they are not hunting and are forced into a small space, they react as if they are being hunted themselves.

If your cat is hiding, don’t peek under the bed and reach for them. Allow them to hide. They will come out when they are ready. You have to be patient for this one. Some cats will hide for hours, days, or weeks especially if they are new to your home.

Leave Behind Your Scent

When you leave the house, be sure something that smells like you is left where your cat mostly sleeps/eats. So say you slept in a shirt, take that shirt off and place it close to the food dishes or near their hiding area. This way, when you go, your scent will still be nearby. There will be no threat but the smell will be present which will create a safe zone with your smell. I know this sounds strange, but trust me, there are a lot of things cats perceive through scent alone.

Remember, trust is earned! It isn’t simply given. It can take days, weeks, or even months but it does not mean you should give up.

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17 thoughts on “How to Earn a Cat’s Trust”

  1. I’m HEARTBROKEN! I scared my poor kitty and now she acts totally different around me. She was attached to my hip everyday, but now she can barely be in the same room. Please Help! How can I get my Whisper back?

      • I lost my cool on the phone (stupid BGE customer service lady) and she got the wrong idea. Now she spends most of her time under my bed. Since then I put her favorite blanket under there so she feels safe. I miss her sooo much! Please tell me what to do! Can’t breathe without her.

      • so i saaw a cat in my yard and when i go near her shee gets stressed and runs away what do i do to gain the cute cats trust?

      • Thanks for your comment. In order to gain a stray cat’s trust, you need to offer it food from a distance and allow it to understand you are not a threat. This can take days or weeks of daily interactions with you giving it food.

      • which food should i give the food too the cat u said i must give her food what kind of food should i give her i dont understand

  2. My cat recently had a dental procedure. She was in lots of pain and she was already fearful because a previous owner abused her. I had to force medication in her but i can tell she’s lost her trust in me. ? i can get close enough to scratch her head and she purrs, but she doesn’t sleep with me liye she did. ??

  3. I really messed up my bond with my cat. She’s 10 and in a bit of a intoxicated rage, I flipped out because she had been on my dining room table and threw up. I chased her around the house and popped her(in which I immediately regretted. I’ve been trying for a couple of days to get her to come to me but all she does is hiss. She use to let me touch her anywhere including her belly. I love my cat. Can anyone please tell me what to do? I’m having separation anxiety!!!!??????????????????

    • Thanks for your comment Patrick… By “popped” her, do you mean you forcefully hit her? If that is the case can you honestly blame her for not wanting anything to do with you? You punished her for getting sick and throwing up. She couldn’t help that it happened to be on your table. If you were sick and threw up in your friend’s car and they punched you for it, would you want to be near that friend again? More than likely not. You are going to have to build up her trust again and hope she can move on from it.

      • Ya, Patrick, they say the same thing with children. If a child wets the bed, parents often get angry and it results in all sorts of bedtime and fear issues. Gotta watch the temper and remember they can’t help if they get sick. You should strike more of a compassionate angle when your cat pukes. I have two cats, one is a long hair and the other short haired. Since the short haired cat is always grooming the long haired cat, she ends up with the odd hairball. I’ll hear the sound of her about to puke and rarely do I move her, I talk in a soothing voice, pet her afterwards and give her some TLC. I basically imagine my cat is like a friend who went out partying with me, got drunk and now is puking. Never hit your cat, unless you want them to hate you. Not cool.

    • Your having the same issue as me and I know how much it sucks. My cat use to spend all her time with me. Nowadays I only see her for about an hour a day. I think we’re out of luck.. the bond has been broken. If you or anyone knows how to get back that bond feel free to let me know. I love my Whispers

  4. My cat Destiny only came 2 days ago, she doesn’t trust anything or anyone, I’m hoping she will calm down soon.

  5. I’m fostering my first cat, and she fears me. She’s trusting more ((i can tell by her pupil dilations)) but she won’t leave her box. ((She has to stay in a crate cuz fudging adults and Carla is scaring her worse))

  6. My lady Maxine who absolutely adored me now hates me for bringing her to the vet once for a minor visit. It is so heartbreaking. I am trying these and really hope they work because right now I feel almost like how Ive have felt after break-ups 🙁

    • Thanks for your comment Línxī. Trust is something that is fragile for us humans as well as cats. Earning her trust back may take time but I am sure she will come around. Vet visits are usually viewed as a bad thing to cats. Make sure nothing in your house smells like the vet’s office.


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